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Beryl Lieff Benderly

Making Safety Progress at UCLA

As the academic science world awaits the next development in the case against UCLA and Patrick Harran over the death of Sheri Sangji, chemical safety expert Russ Phifer has been looking at the efforts UCLA has been making to improve safety in its labs. Writing at Chemical & Engineering News, he reviews the work of the University of California’s Center for Laboratory Safety, founded in the wake of the catastrophe.  He also introduces Petros Yiannikouros, UCLA’s new chemical hygeine officer, whose hiring, Phifer said, is part of UCLA’s effort “to fundamentally change its safety culture.”

After spending “a number of hours” with Yiannikouros, Phifer finds him not only technically well qualified but also “engaging, communicative, and fun to talk with”–all qualities needed to help him convince errant lab chiefs to change their ways.  “It is clearly a challenge to get principal investigators to ‘buy in’ to structured safety behavior,” Phifer writes, “but it looks like Yannikouros has the tools to do that at UCLA.”

That’s good news, and also ought to be an example to other institutions.